New Statehouse Visitor Rules Come Under Fire

Jan 9, 2019

New rules restricting access and movement around the Kentucky Capitol have demonstrators and lawmakers crying foul.

New rules posted inside the House gallery, as seen on January 8, 2019.
Credit Josh James / WUKY

Walk around the state Capitol this session and you'll probably hear comments like this: "We were standing alongside the side halls that lead to the gallery and they're like, "No, you can't stand there. You've got to go the second floor.'"

That was Amanda Groves with the Poor People's Campaign, one of a number of visitors who have felt the squeeze in recent days following an emergency regulation signed into effect by Gov. Matt Bevin  on January 4th.

The new rules, which beef up security stops and limit access to the heavily-trafficked tunnel connecting the Capitol to the nearby Annex building, had Rep. Mary Lou Marzian worrying about a chilling effect on democracy.

"We are taxpayer-funded public servants and we should open the doors wide to welcome everybody from all of our districts," the Louisville Democrat said in a floor speech Wednesday.

Yet with recent sessions drawing bigger crowds, the governor and law enforcement counter that the rules are necessary to keep passageways open for emergency personnel.

"We had someone last year that we had to get an ambulance and EMTs in," Rep. David meade explained. "We couldn't get them in for all the people that was [sic] packed in the hallways. It is for safety reasons and safety reasons alone."

Teachers, state workers, and other protesters jammed into the Capitol and Annex during prolonged demonstrations last year as lawmakers debated and passed eleventh hour pension reforms.

Senate President Robert Stivers has said the rules will likely become permanent.